News & Views
CANADA SECTION | EARLIER RECORD OF DEBATES | UKRAINE SECTION | DEBATES ON STEPAN BANDERA | PER ANDERS RUDLING SECTION
From Recent Media Coverage:
6 July 2020: Paula E. Kirman in Canadian Jewish Record: “Problematic monuments in Edmonton force us to question our community’s core values”
6 July 2020: Duncan Kinney in Progress Report: “Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex denies that statue they have of a Nazi collaborator war criminal is a Nazi collaborator war criminal”
Chronology of Summer 2020 Debate on Seimas Decision to Name 2021 for Alleged Participant in June 1941 Kaunas Atrocities
29 June: In response to media reports, Dovid Katz presents a case against the year’s naming for June 1941 LAF activist Juozas Lukša, invoking the publications of Alex Faitelson, Joseph Melamed and a British parliamentary motion. Cnaan Liphshiz reports in JTA (also in Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel; European Jewish Congress).
29 June: Prof. Kęstutis Girnius presents a hagiographic portrait of Lukša in mainstream media, with no mention of 1941 or its issues. Years earlier, the late Leonidas Donskis took issue with his attempts at “fixing 1941” (commentary on both views by Dr. N. Vasiliauskaite).
Vilnius City Council Session of 8 July 2020: A Swift, Surgical Attack on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS
The author is chairperson of the Vilnius Committee for Preservation of Piramont (Šnipiškės) Cemetery. A selection of his English articles is available here.
On the 8th of July, Vilnius City Council approved the Joint Activity (Partnership) Agreement Between Vilnius City Municipality Administration and State Enterprise Property Bank. The session is available online. The deliberations on the Jewish cemetery are at timecode 19:50 through to 26:43. The new agreement has been heralded, without mention of ongoing opposition, in triumphant mainstream media reports in Lithuanian and English.
One council member, Ms. Evelina Dobrovolska, a lawyer working with the European Foundation for Human Rights, which is (was?) pursuing the preventive case in the courts against restoration of the Sport Palace in the middle of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės), left the meeting for that part of the session, as is the custom for those City Council members whose personal commitments may be seen to be a conflict of interest. But that also meant that there was nobody on hand to effectively offer the Second Opinion (including moral and reputational issues, information on the ongoing court case via a European human rights organization, the international petition, and the scope of opposition).
Lithuanian Righteous of the Nations: Were They Hunted Down After the War by the ‘Forest Brother’ Guerrillas?
This is a story of seven Jewish women rescued in Telšiai (Yiddish: Telz). They are: Lija Šapiro (Leye Shapiro), Eta Piker, Nija Miselevič (Niye Miselevich), Maša Richman (Masha Richman), Anna Levi, Zlata Chatimlianskaja (Chatimliansky), and Leja Šif (Leye Shif).
But it is first and foremost a story of “the aftermath”: What happened to the Lithuanian rescuers when the war ended?
CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION
VILNIUS—As reported on 21 February, the rabbi considered the world’s senior authority among the rabbinate in the Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) tradition, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, issued a major edict concerning the fate of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in today’s Šnipiškės district). Thanks to a request by Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas of Vilnius, and the assistance of Dov-Ber and Chaya Fried of New York City, the rabbinical court in Bnei Brak, Israel, has issued an authorized English translation of the original, written in rabbinic Hebrew. The English text is available as PDF, and below.
Christoph Dieckmann & Ruta Vanagaite: How Did It Happen? (Our People. Part II. Understanding the Holocaust in Lithuania). Available for online order.
Book launch in Vilnius on 25 June 2020. DH opinion piece on background. LJC video of Vilnius book launch. English edition has been announced.
Background on author’s website. In her latest blog, the author again fails to credit Evaldas Balčiūnas for revealing, in 2012, the Noreika history (and thereafter that of other glorified perpetrators) to the English speaking world, for which he was persecuted by police and prosecutors for years (see his section, scroll down to May 2014). References to the recent glorification of Noreika and Skirpa by a prominent scholar the Genocide Center and “Red-Brown Commission” on 23 June 2020 fail to cite Defending History’s eyewitness report in Vilnius. The eminent author, who has a story of historic proportions to relate, might take care not to fall into California spirited self-PR mode that eschews accreditation of predecessors and contemporaries.
Websites Report that Lithuania’s Ambassador in Washington Assures Head of Senate Foreign Relations Committee: ‘There will be no conference center on the cemetery!’
HUMAN RIGHTS | MEDIA WATCH | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION
VILNIUS—According to a report by the website Save Vilna that also appeared in the Christian News Journal, the Lithuanian ambassador to the United States, HE Rolandas Kriščiūnas has personally assured the chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Jim (James E.) Risch “that there will be no conference centre on the cemetery.” The meeting resulted from months-long diplomacy by Christian Evangelical journalist Dr. Michael J. Harper of InterMountain Christian News, a prominent campaigner against the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Over the past year, he has passionately represented the cause in Vilnius and Tel Aviv, in addition to his work as a White House correspondent representing Christian media. Together with a delegation of top Lithuanian tradition rabbis in Israel, he spoke eloquently at a videotaped meeting with the Lithuanian ambassador to Tel Aviv.
Will Lithuania’s Parliament Really Name 2021 for Alleged Participant in LAF’s Kaunas Atrocities of June 1941?
by Dovid Katz
According to Lithuanian media reports, the nation’s parliament (Seimas) will be declaring the year 2021 to be dedicated to the memory of, among others, Juozas Lukša (Daumantas).
Let us assume for the sake of argument that the identification of Mr. Lukša (Luksha) as one of the brutal murderers of defenseless Jewish neighbors in an infamous photo of the Kaunas Garage Massacre of June 1941, best known from Joseph Melamed’s 1999 Crime and Punishment, published by the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, is erroneous. Then, that the reference in the text to Mr. Lukša (p. 38), and a photo with other alleged collaborators (p. 105), are likewise mistaken. And that the information on the Association’s website, posted during Mr. Melamed’s lifetime, is also in error.
Let us even grant that there is no current courtroom-grade proof for the details of the following text from Holocaust survivor Alex Faitelson, in his classic memoir The Truth and Nothing But the Truth: Jewish Resistance in Lithuania (Gefen Publishing House 2006, p. 34). It is a text that includes the author’s recollection from after the war: Lukša’s “photograph was found and shown to witnesses who were interrogated. They all confirmed his participation in the torture of Jews in the garage” (Lithuanian translation).
Chief Historian of Lithuania’s State-Sponsored “Genocide Center” is Key Speaker at Events Glorifying June 23rd 1941 and — Noreika and Škirpa
VILNIUS—The good news is that the press conference at the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) this morning featuring two members of parliament was in the end a small fringe event by the far right, including a renewed attack on Holocaust survivor and resistance hero Dr. Yitzhak Arad, one of the Jewish partisan veterans defamed and harassed by local prosecutors for some years. The evening event in central Vilnius had a dismal turnout of a few dozen people. Both events were dedicated to the glorification of June 23rd, the day the mass murder, injury, plunder and humiliation of Lithuanian Jewry by local Hitler supporters, most prominently the LAF (“Lithuanian Activist Front”) got underway, in a multitude of locations, most lethally Kaunas, before the arrival of the first German forces. Although it is universally accepted by serious historians that the Soviet Army was fleeing Hitler’s onslaught (Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion in human history), the local far right continues to spew the narrative that this was actually a “rebellion” that “drove out” the Soviet army. (See Defending History’s coverage of previous years’ events and debates, an introductory reading list on the history, and the new English translation of extensive survivor testimonies.)
Subtext to June 25th Vilnius Event: Vanagaite & Dieckmann vs. Vanagaite & Zuroff? Hope is for Full Openness on June 1941 and LAF Killers (and Hitler’s Puppet Local Gov.)
VILNIUS—As ever, debates on the Holocaust in Lithuania take on their own drama, a drama never far from the ongoing alleged revisionism by Baltic governments, not least about the outbreak of local violence, plunder and murder of defenseless Jewish citizens by local “patriots” still glorified as “anti-Soviet heroes” for their unleashing of the Holocaust locally in the first days following the launch of Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. In the Baltics as in (western) Ukraine, thousands of Jews were victimized and killed before the first German soldiers set foot on, or set up their administration in the territories. Far from fleeing some local “rebellion” as mendaciously claimed by state museums and commissions, the Soviet army was fleeing Hitler’s invasion — the largest invasion in human history.
by Aleksandrs Feigmanis (Riga)
June 2020. I go to buy some food in the supermarket near where I live. Passing by the display-stand of the “Jānis Roze” bookstore featuring its proud new titles I was shocked to see My flight to Japan (Mans lidojums uz Japānu) by Herberts Cukurs (pronounced [tsú-kurs]). The book was just published, not by some private publisher, but by the Latvian Museum of Aviation in Spilve. Description of the new title on the website Janisroze.lv presents Herberts Cukurs as “the aviator, traveler and man of courage.” No mention of his involvement in the Holocaust.
OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION
Respect Cemeteries (Gerbkime kapines) is a group of individuals in Lithuania who are working together to keep our country from operating a convention center at the Vilnius Sports Palace on top of the oldest Jewish cemetery in Vilnius. We are focusing on this crisis as the most vital issue to address in fostering Lithuanian and Litvak friendship.
Our approach is to embrace and explore the value of respecting all cemeteries with special attention to Lithuanian points of view. Arkadij Kurliandchik, an elected member of the board of the Vilnius Jewish Community, advises that we won’t be heard in Lithuania if we portray the fate of the Vilnius Jewish Cemetery as a Jewish special interest issue. Instead, if we care about our general humanity, and if we appreciate Lithuanian issues, then we hope to discover the righteous Lithuanians who will argue with us against cynical Lithuanian politicians and developers, and against their ally, the official Lithuanian Jewish Community.
CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS
VILNIUS—The international petition launched by Ruta Bloshtein, a native and resident of Vilnius, has today reached the 50,000 signature mark. People of diverse background and many countries are among the signatories. Opponents of the disturbing idea to site a convention center in the heart of the old Jewish cemetery (with extant graves, albeit not stones, on all four sides), has been resolutely opposed by rabbis in Lithuania in recent years, including, in alphabetical order, chief rabbi of nine years’ standing Chaim Burshtein (who was fired in 2015 for speaking out); Rabbi S. J. Feffer (a Gaon of Vilna scholar who has been based in Vilnius for decades, and issued edicts in Hebrew and English); Rabbi Kalev Krelin, now based in Riga, who was one of the first to sign Ms. Bloshtein’s petition, along with Chabad rabbi Sholom-Ber Krinsky, who has lived in the city for over a quarter century with his family and is now official rabbi of the one functioning synagogue. Only partly in jest, Vilnius residents say this is the first time these rabbis have agreed on much of anything.
VILNIUS—Two scholars in Germany have made available a working German translation of Dovid Katz’s 2016 paper, “Is East European ‘Double Genocide’ Revisionism Reaching Museums?” The new German version is available online in PDF format. The paper, published in Journal of Holocaust Research, was dedicated to the memory of Lithuanian scholar Prof. Leonidas Donskis (1962–2016), who contributed on multiple occasions to Defending History.
Julius Norwilla (standing end of table) with his class of Elementary/Intermediate Yiddish at Vilnius’s Jewish Cultural and Information Center (JCIC) in the Old Town, under auspices of the Vilnius Jewish Community in March 2020. On 24 March, with a pandemic upending life in the Lithuanian capital (as everywhere), the students and teacher decided to continue online via skype and have not missed a week. Standing at left is Rima Kazlauskaite, administrator at JCIC.
UCL | UK | UK SECTION | DOUBLE GENOCIDE | EVENTS | HISTORY IN HANDS OF FOREIGN MINISTRIES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY
“Litvak Days in London”: Another Deeply One-Sided PR Stunt Masquerading as a Fair & Balanced Dialogue?
UCL revives offensive-to-survivors role of serving as embassy’s PR unit (“no second opinions allowed at this conference”). In 2011 it provided the “academic cover” for insinuating Baltic Holocaust revisionism into UK mainstream. In 2012, it would not grant a Holocaust survivor five minutes to express another view. Now he’s gone.
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS | DOCUMENTS
VILNIUS—A recent social media campaign has been spreading the message that there are no longer human remains at the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt, in today’s Šnipiškės section of modern Vilnius, the capital of democratic EU and NATO member Lithuania. Of course within the Jewish faith the sanctity of Jewish cemeteries remains in situ despite earth disruptions. “There is no such thing as a former Jewish cemetery,” Lithuania’s last chief rabbi, Chaim Burshtein, pointed out, before being fired in 2015 for expressing his opposition to “the convention center in the cemetery.”
UPDATES TO 4 MAY ENCLOSED IN [ ]
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | HUMAN RIGHTS
VILNIUS—According to a report [full translation here] and photo spread in today’s Lrytas.lt (rapidly picked up on other major portals), a multitude of chairs, each with a mock 1000 euro banknote taped on, were on display today on the still unbuilt part of the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, directly on top of thousands of extant graves covered by concrete slabs from the Soviet era. This is reported as a demonstration coordinated by the National Tourism Business Association (NTVA), the Lithuanian Tourism Association (LTA), and the Lithuanian Hotel and Restaurant Association (LVRA). The NTVA also published a “video of the demo” on Facebook. The video carries one line of text which reads, in translation: “By this action of empty chairs, the tourism industry reminds the state about the unemployed Palace of Sports.”